5.28.2002

Because my color vocabulary is exceedingly limited, in the same way my vocabulary for birds is limited, I have remarkable ease in describing both. There is no pretense to accuracy. "Blue" covers a wide range of shades, and "bird" covers every kind of bird other than robins and humming birds. Sunhee wants more precision: She wants a good bird book because there are so many in our yard, and, because we are planning to paint the house, she seeks command over the palette of possible colors and their labels. It strikes me that this modulation between generality and precision is not culturally specific, but language-game specific. We expect artists, philosophers of aesthetics, lexicographers, ornithologists, and ecologists, to have more technical lexicons for things like colors and birds. I come away with a deeper appreciation of Wittgenstein's "words are like tools" simile.

Whorf and Sapir both made much of the idea that Eskimos had a wide array of nouns for various types of snow. It turns out that this is not altogether accurate. However, it remains plausible. It is why I would turn to you for a good, working definition of trope,synecdoche, or metonymy.

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